How to start, married, NYC apt - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-28-2014, 07:12 AM Thread Starter
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Question How to start, married, NYC apt

I am new to this forum and to the hobby.

I would like to start keeping fish but have been daunted by a number of factors.
  • I live in a 1 BR NYC apt and do not have a lot of space.
  • I am married and while my wife is willing to be a spectator, she is not willing to participate in this hobby
  • I cannot spend hours and hours researching on the web and hours and hours fiddling with a tank. I can spend a couple of hours spread out over each week tending to and admiring my fish/tank
My wife gave me a starter tank kit as a birthday present a couple of years ago. I started to do research terrified of asphyxiating my new pets in their own ammonia (the responsibility of being a fish keeper as opposed to a pet owner), spent an additional $150 on additional lighting and test kits, and once I read about the fourth ingredient for soil substrate I gave up and sold the whole lot on Craigslist for $25. My wife was hurt and birthday presents have been pretty crummy since then.

I'd like to start again but I need a better plan.
  1. What I originally wanted was a lush, green 10 gallon tank with a few neon tetras (my favorite since childhood). Is this not reasonable? I've heard that small tanks are hard.
  2. Is a planted tank too complicated and should I just opt for just a regular tank with plastic plants, clown puke gravel, a treasure chest aerator that bobs open and closed, and fish that die every 8 weeks?
  3. Is the nano tank with shrimp and snails a good approach for beginners?
I've read "Guide to Starting a Freshwater Aquarium (including Planted Tanks)" and found it most helpful.

I am a nurse so I don't consider myself a hard-hearted person. My wife has a bachelors in environmental biology (but she now works in internet advertising). And yes, we've both seen Finding Nemo.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-28-2014, 07:20 AM
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Welcome to TPT!

No- your goal is FAR from impossible!

Spend some time in the Low Tech forum, this type of setup sounds right up your alley, as it will be the low maintenance and lower setup cost way to go.

You can do dwarf shrimp, snails, AND some Neons in a 10gal if you want.

We'll be happy to help you through it all step by step.

First pick out the tank, and then we can help you pick out good equipment options for a low tech setup.

Do you already have a tank, or are you planning on shopping Craigslist? (I've picked up quite a few fantastic deals on CL.)

Low tech = low light = plants don't grow especially quickly = you'll need to stock the tank slowly to avoid ammonia spiles. The biggest ingredient you're going to need through this process is patience.

Here's a super simple 10gal I had set up a few years back. Cherry shrimp and dwarf rasporas, standard 18 watt T8 flourescent light, Flourite substrate, hardy plants:







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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-28-2014, 07:21 AM
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Well a 10 gallon is fine as long as it stock it properly, you can go many ways, but as far as keeping it easy you want low-med light need plants stuff like java ferns crypts anacharis some of the hygros, you do not need soil but i would suggest activflora or eco complete, now you can pick fish or shrimp, shrimp as pretty easy to take care of the "neo" shrimp anyways you really need to study up on cycling but if you use activeflora or eco complete they pretty much insta cycle a tank
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-28-2014, 08:18 AM
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I think you are over dramatizing, and over complicating the situation. People have been keeping fish and plants successfully for hundreds of years. It's not rocket science.

Your plan needs to revolve around what you want. By the sounds of it you want a low tech setup with slow growth and minimal attendance to the tank. This is the easiest setup. Why over complicate the situation with adding soil?

Grab a decent low light for the tank. A finnex fuger ray would be fine. If you don't want to spend a lot of money then use a 9 watt 5000k flood light (not the narrow beam spot light) LED from home depot or lowes

Get some fluorite or eco complete (about 20 lbs for a 10 gal). Wash it well. Put it in the tank. Connect all the filtration and heating equipment. Wait a day or so to settle. Put in root tabs. Add hearty plants like anubias, swords and val. Watch them grow.

Add your choice of fish slowly. 3 or 4 hearty zebra danios will cycle your tank fine without any deaths if you feed 1x a day...just a pinch. You can help the cycling process if you have a friend with an established tank (just a generous handful will suffice). You can take some of his gravel and it put it in the tank after you add fish.

For the first week after you add fish change 25% (add prime for NYC water) of the water every other day. Do the same for the second week if you can.

If you notice signs of stress in the fish change 50% of the water.

After 6 weeks the tank will practically take care of itself. Do monthly 50% water changes.

That's all there is to it.

Who knows...after you have success with this method you might want to upgrade to more challenging species with co2 injection and higher light.

To answer your questions directly:

What I originally wanted was a lush, green 10 gallon tank with a few neon tetras (my favorite since childhood). Is this not reasonable? I've heard that small tanks are hard.
Small tanks are no harder than large tanks. As long as it has a filtration unit and a stable heater most things are possible. Neon tetras are a good choice, but I would stay away from them for the first few months. They don't handle ammonia and nitrite toxicity well. It's important to choose a beginning fish according to what they are used to in nature. For all practical purposes a beta is basically indestructible against ammonia and is the best choice for survival, but it may not be what you want in the tank in the long run (a potentially aggressive fish...females are not, though).

Having a green, lush tank is possible. In a low light setup with no co2 plants will not grow fast, but under optimal conditions will grow healthy. I'm not sure how NYC water is for growing plants, but I've heard it's great. There should be plenty of micro nutrients in the tank for plants to thrive. If you run into yellow, decaying growth down the road be sure to visit TPT again and we can suggest a comprehensive fertilizer you can use to ensure success in a low light, slow growing tank.

Is a planted tank too complicated and should I just opt for just a regular tank with plastic plants, clown puke gravel, a treasure chest aerator that bobs open and closed, and fish that die every 8 weeks?

The plants...in the long run atleast will be easier to maintain than your fish. As stated above you MIGHT run into a situation where you need to add a half capful of seachem's flourish once or twice every few weeks. You will need to replace root tabs for the plants approx. every 2-3 months. I suggest seachem's root tabs because they are complete with trace elements.

I would stay away from the chest that bobs open and closed with fish dying every few weeks

A word of warning: Fish can die. They die in nature of disease, predation and natural causes. All of these things can happen in your aquarium as well. Don't let the death of fish discourage you. Find the root cause. Usually fish die of disease following an acute toxicity of ammonia or nitrite during the first few months of setting up a tank. Diseases can happen anytime, but if the plants are healthy and keeping the water clean the fish will have a bolstered immune system and shouldn't succumb as easily.

Algae: Don't let this discourage you. It will probably happen in the first few months. Green water, brown gunk on plant's leaves, and on the substrate. Less likely to be a huge problem in a low light tank, but chances are good you will have atleast some algae from time to time; especially during the first few months.

Is the nano tank with shrimp and snails a good approach for beginners

I would stick with the 10 gal plan with a few hearty fish and plants to begin with. Shrimp depending on the type can be a chore to keep...especially if you plan on keeping fish with them. Snails are always good and I love them for eating algae. Don't get any snails that reproduce like crazy.

I'd say good luck, but it's not needed. You will succeed.

Last edited by Positron; 05-28-2014 at 08:42 AM. Reason: sdaf
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-28-2014, 08:46 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks lauraleellbp and stone454 for pointing me to the Low Tech forums. Positron you are most correct, I am over-dramatizing -- but for effect. If any others have suggestions, I'd appreciate those too.

Hopefully at the end of this I will other options than just watching YouTube fish tank videos.
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-28-2014, 09:01 AM
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Good advise above - low tech, low light is a great way to start. Low cost, low upkeep, and many choices if smaller tanks in many shapes that can fit anywhere. They are also easier to re-start if things go south.

Given your location and situation, here is one of mine that I personally really like out of some 8+ tanks I keep. Another reason for my self promotion is that ny wife could care less about tanks but this is the one she really likes:

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh....php?p=5587305

And it also houses 5 neons <hint>.

If you want more details or free plants to help you start, feel free to contact me.

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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-28-2014, 04:35 PM
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There may be a little extra drama involved, but I feel where he is coming from. The problem is not just that there is a TON of information and opinions out there, but that the new hobbyist begins to over-think everything.

I would equate this to what is referred to as Scope Creep. Heck, Scope Creep could also attribute to MTS. Basically, you set out going "Oh, I am going to start a planted tank!" and then the next thing you know, you are hacksawing a Finnex light to fit under your hood and you have 5 tanks.

When I was living in NYC, I was not into the hobby. I wanted to be, but had a lot of other things going on.

My first advise would be to please your wife. See if you can find the same setup she had purchased for you. Maybe even claim you bought it back from the person who you sold it to. Nothing worse than buying someone a gift and they return it or sell it. I made this mistake once. Girlfriend at the time bought me two sweaters. I at the time was not much of a sweater person, and I needed new jeans. So I exchanged the sweaters for jeans. Being a guy and being me, I did not think of it at the time but I imagine it hurt her feelings and only added to the eventual destruction of the relationship LOL. Oh young DefStatic, you always had to learn the hard way.

But I digress...

My first suggestion would be to start small, or as big as you feel comfortable with. Maybe a 10 gallon or 20 gallon at best. Read about the fish you want, and not always the information from the chain stores. Some of the chain stores have really good employees working the fish section. Some do not. Read about the temps they prefer, are they schooling fish, what is the recommended tank size, etc etc etc. Doing a little research will save you money and time. And all it takes is a few minutes.

What I originally wanted was a lush, green 10 gallon tank with a few neon tetras (my favorite since childhood). Is this not reasonable? I've heard that small tanks are hard.

As mentioned before, smaller tanks are not exactly harder. The challenge with smaller tanks is that if a problem occurs, it spreads faster or complicates things faster. With a larger tank, if something goes wrong you have more space/water/plants to offset the problem.

From what I understand, Neons are a schooling fish and I have read before that they prefer 20 gallons or more. I do not think that means it is impossible to keep them in a 10 gallon. I am not sure if the same applies to Neons as it does to Cardinals, but Cardinal Tetras prefer to have a place to hide as well. Mine like to come out from time to time but also spend the majority of their time hanging out in my swords.

Is a planted tank too complicated and should I just opt for just a regular tank with plastic plants, clown puke gravel, a treasure chest aerator that bobs open and closed, and fish that die every 8 weeks?

As long as you choose the right plants, a planted tank is no harder than plastic plants. In fact, it is much better. Start off with easy plants. And again, research them first! Some plants are easy but require to be planted in the substrate, some tied to rocks or driftwood. A word of advise, do not just buy any plant you see at chain stores. They are notorious for selling plants that are not truly aquatic. Trust me, I wasted a fair amount of money on such plants when I first started.

Is the nano tank with shrimp and snails a good approach for beginners?

I would agree with Positron. Shrimp can be done by a beginner, but are in my opinion a bit more advanced, especially with a nano, in regards to water conditions.

With a 10 gallon, you can learn most of the basics and then some.

As for time involved... if you are doing everything right, maintaining a 10 gallon tank should not take much more than an hour a week. Some people have theirs setup so they only need a 50% water change once a month. Myself, I have to change my water once a week. Although I have gotten my Betta Tanks to the point that none of my water params change much at all, but I still clean out the waste and change about 30% of the water a week.

Some additional advise I would give:

Keep it simple. Go more advanced once you conquer the basics.

If you can't get the same setup your wife purchased for you, or even if you can, try to use LED lights (even the cheaper lights will grow low light plants with ease).

Get yourself a proper size Aquaclear HOB filter. These are incredibly low maintenance. All you need to worry about is cleaning out the sponge once a month, maybe even less.

You do not have to purchase the most expensive equipment, but try to avoid the cheapest. Sure, that eBay Chinese knockoff heater might be $5. But when it fails, you will spend even more replacing your fish. You can purchase a decent heater for a reasonable price.

Use a decent water conditioner. I have recently switched to Seachem Prime, and it is one of the best changes I have made. It cost a little more, but it does a great job and requires lesser amounts to be added to the water.

Cycle your tank properly. Learn about the cycle process. I prefer a fish-less cycle or not using any bottled cycle enhancer. Only takes about a month and your tank will benefit from a proper cycle.

Don't try to chase a perfect pH. It is better to have a stable pH of say 7.4 than one that fluctuates between 7 and 7.4 because you are trying to use chemicals to change the pH.

Get the API Master Freshwater Test kit and test once a week. This is important for verifying your tank is going through the cycle properly. And for making sure things are staying normal in your tank after. Testing should only take a few minutes a week once you have done it a few times. Avoid test strips. They are not as accurate and will cost you more in the long run.

When in doubt, ask a question on the forums. We have all been there, all made mistakes, all have wisdom to share. This site alone has been the greatest resource for me. Do not be too afraid to ask any question.


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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-28-2014, 05:05 PM
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Maybe even claim you bought it back from the person who you sold it to.
I thought our goal here is to help him out, not get him banished from the house for lying to his wife?!!


As a woman, a sincere apology - and not doing it again- goes a long way.





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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-28-2014, 05:22 PM
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Welcome to TPT. There's a few NYC locals who can help you get started, me included.

What I originally wanted was a lush, green 10 gallon tank with a few neon tetras (my favorite since childhood). Is this not reasonable? I've heard that small tanks are hard.

Definitely not. You can go low tech and still end up with a lush tank. It just takes a little bit of research and preparation.

Is a planted tank too complicated and should I just opt for just a regular tank with plastic plants, clown puke gravel, a treasure chest aerator that bobs open and closed, and fish that die every 8 weeks?

See above.

Is the nano tank with shrimp and snails a good approach for beginners?

Snails are easy. Shrimp take a little bit more work since you need to know the chemistry of your water. NYC tap is notoriously soft so you'll need to adjust it if you want to keep shrimp.

Any other questions?

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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-28-2014, 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by lauraleellbp View Post
I thought our goal here is to help him out, not get him banished from the house for lying to his wife?!!


As a woman, a sincere apology - and not doing it again- goes a long way.
LOL, yes, perhaps do not try that. But an attempt to replace it with something or exactly what it was, and a "You were right, I was wrong" goes even further in my experience LOL.


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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-28-2014, 08:10 PM
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After a few years of being in a relationship, I can actively say that the "you where right, I was wrong" thing is sometimes the only way to conclude a spirited discussion/argument. The sad thing is I usually don't think I'm wrong, lol.
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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-29-2014, 12:19 AM
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There are quite a few ways to do a simple, low maintenance tank that looks good and supports both healthy fish and plants.

I'd start with finding a suitable location in your apartment. I imagine being in Manhattan, you are somewhat limited in space, so that's probably the first concern. After that, I'd consider windows, heaters, ducts/vents/etc. If avoidable, you don't really want it sitting where a heater vent or summer sun will be shining on it (but if you don't have much of a choice, there are things that can be done to address that...)

I'd consider getting almost as big of a tank as you can comfortably fit in your chosen area. You get a little bit more stability with a bigger tank, plus a lot more flexibility in terms of what you can put in it. You can still do neon tetras or something, but you can have a bigger school, etc.

Then get your equipment. Don't skimp on the heater, get a decent brand with a good recommendation. The heater is probably the one thing that has the most potential to go wrong and harm you or your fish. Use a GFCI outlet if one is nearby, or get a GFCI adapter/power strip. Aquaclear filters are an old classic, work pretty well, not very expensive, and give you a lot of flexibility as far as filter media goes. For a 10 gallon, 2 13watt compact flourescent bulbs in an incandescent striplight/hood works pretty well, and is probably one of the cheapest options.

And I'd do low-tech. less maintenance, cheaper equipment, and less things to possibly go wrong.

Look up fishless cycling - it's not difficult to do, and gives you 3-4 weeks for the plants to start get settled in, it will get you familiar with your test kits, and when you are done you can fully stock the tank.
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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-29-2014, 01:26 AM
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+1 on fishless cycle. There are a few ways to do it. The most stable (and I think easiest) is to get ahold of a pure ammonia source (Ace hardware janitor grade ammonia is a good trusted product). This method does take a bit of paying attention and a test kit (many use API.. Get the liquid "master test kit" never the strips, they aren't as reliable). I found this site and it's conversion on the side + the ammonia calculator at the bottom, very informative and helpful.
Short(ish) version: calculate to get 3-4ppm ammonia in your tank, dose once and check in 1-2 weeks with API ammonia test, when it stats going down, nitrite goes up. Use calculator to get dosing amounts to keep ammonia levels constant (think of it as the beneficial bacteria that's formed and eatting ammonia as your first pet in the tank, have to feed (but not over feed) it). Start testing ammonia and nitrite levels 2-3 weeks after you started seeing drops in ammonia, keep feeding and testing until both ammonia and nitrite are "0 ppm". Now your nitrates will be through the roof (unless you started doing water changes on the schedul you want to keep when you have fish.. I did this for my most recent tanks and found it very helpful.. remember to re-dose ammonia after these weekly changes) you will have to do several large water changes to bring nitrates down to a safe level. Get fish within 1-2 days or keep dosing ammonia until you are ready for fish (again do water change before fish go in).

Doing a pure ammonia cycle will give you a beneficial bacteria colony (good stuff that turns toxic ammonia into nitrite and then to nitrate to make the water safer) built like a tank (the military vechicsl) and, as long as you don't way overstock or over feed, shouldn't have any ammonia spikes when adding fish AND you can add full tank stock at once instead of little by little over time.

Everyone cycles thier tank thief own way. I do it as explained above with just filter and heater in tank (and substrate) but do not use light or put plants in until it's "fish ready", keeping the tank as dark as possible to avoid algae. When water is fish safe I plant it and put in fish.
This method should only take 7-10 minutes a day once the cyclig is going and you add and test ammonia (and nitrite). And another 10-15 minutes for a weekly water change (make sure to de-chlorinate your water so as not to kill fish, plants, or benigicial bacteria.. Seachem Prime is a good trusted brand for this).

Low tech and low-medium light plants are a good place to start including sword plants (amazon sword most common) and vals (gets long can be cut like grass and still grow) anubias and java fern (attach to decor, to but bury in substrate), mosses, hornwort and anacharis. Most any place that sells aquarium plants will have these.

Do you know what your water pH is? Have you tested gh and kh (General and carbonate hardness) API also has a test kit for this. The fish you want is fairly durable but you want to avoid pH swings. Periodically test your ph on differnt days of the week and at differnt times to make sure it stays consistent. You should also take a clean bucket bowl or cup of water and let it sit a few days then see if ph has changed from when it was first drawn from the tap.


The wife might not want to be involved in maintaining but try to get her to interact and pick out parts of the set up (let her choose a reasonable for your space tank, or help pick out fish or plants). When picking out plants and fish just take 10 minutes for each to google up species info and read stats fro a few sites to get a good idea. Or if you have questions, ask on the forums people are happy to help and share info.

Due to photobuckets new bs cost for use of images on forums I have deleted all photobucket accounts. I apologize if you enjoyed or found my photos helpful.

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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-29-2014, 08:07 AM
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"I am married and while my wife is willing to be a spectator, she is not willing to participate in this hobby"

^^^this. i lol'd cuz i'm in the same boat. well not exactly b/c she's not willing to be a spectator either
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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-29-2014, 07:51 PM
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"I am married and while my wife is willing to be a spectator, she is not willing to participate in this hobby"

^^^this. i lol'd cuz i'm in the same boat. well not exactly b/c she's not willing to be a spectator either
Hahaha. Now I feel goooooood about being single.


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